MSPAS Program Meeting Demand For No. 1 Job In 2021

The second cohort class in the Master of Science Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) Program at Dominican University of California graduated in December and Michael Burns ’20 couldn’t be more proud and more ready to move into his new job in the emergency department at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz.

Especially now that U.S. News and World Report ranks Physician Assistant No. 1 among the Top 100 Jobs for 2021.

“I feel my education in the Dominican MSPAS Program has been first class and our professors have prepared us extremely well to enter the world as new physician assistants,” says Michael, who was hired last month by Vituity, a physician-led and physician-owned partnership.

“One highlight I found very encouraging is the feedback I have received while on clinical rotations.  Several of my preceptors remarked to me that their experience with Dominican PA students has been very positive, that we have been among the strongest PA students with whom they have worked.”

Michael was one of 28 students who participated in 2020's virtual pre-recorded ceremony, which included remarks by Dr. Ruth Ramsey, Dean of the School of Health and Natural Sciences, and MSPAS Program Director Carl Garrubba. The keynote speech was delivered by Dr. Joseph Habis, MSPAS Medical Director, followed by a congratulatory message from Conor Brown, president of the MSPAS CO 2020 Student Society.

In 2019, Dominican graduated its first cohort class of 23 from the competitive MS Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) Program. More than half of the class had jobs lined up, with others landing interviews at medical centers and private practices throughout California and the west.

The MSPAS Program launched in 2017 at a time when employment of PAs was projected to increase by 30 percent from 2014 to 2024. Demand continues to grow for both PAs and spots in the Dominican program. Dominican has approximately 1,500 applicants each year vying for about 30-40 seats in the 28-month program. Its readiness was appealing to Michael when he was researching schools around Northern California that offer a PA program.


“The interview process at Dominican really cemented my intention to attend the PA program,” Michael says. “It was apparent that the faculty was highly competent, motivated, and experienced, and that Dominican was a program that invested in their people.  I was also encouraged by the beauty of the campus and the small class size.  It felt like a community.”


It was challenging for Michael, but he appreciates the support and sacrifice made by his fiancé Amy and four year-old son.  It meant spending time away from them, yet he says he had a strong support system of family and friends.

Now Michael can slow down a bit.

“PA school has been one of the most intense and rewarding experiences of my life.  I feel like I have been going 100 mph for the past two and a half years, and it hasn't really set in that we have graduated,” says Michael, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Santa Cruz in biochemistry and molecular biology. “For me, the experience hasn't been marked by a singular highlight. It felt more like 1,000 small victories.  The accumulation of those small victories has been the most meaningful part of my experience.”

It resulted in a job and Michael credits motivation and dedication for that.

“I rotated at the emergency department in Santa Cruz and I immediately knew that I wanted to practice emergency medicine,” he says. “One piece of advice I would offer all PA students is to treat each rotation like an extended job interview, especially if you want to work there. You don't have to nail every diagnosis, but I tried to demonstrate that I was a hard worker and passionate about emergency medicine.  I kept in touch with the medical staff and let them know I was interested in working with them. A position became available and they encouraged me to apply.”

The bonus for Michael was knowing his achievement was accomplished during a pandemic. He understood and appreciated the importance of his position in the medical field and sensed what he did made a difference for others.

“It goes without saying that the COVID pandemic has deeply impacted many aspects of our lives.  We were early on in our clinical rotations when it arrived in the United States,” he says. “Our clinical faculty really did an outstanding job of managing our rotations and we were able to secure quality rotations, on time, and with minimal interruption to our training.  All levels of medical professionals have put themselves at great personal risk to continue treating their patients. To see their response to the pandemic first hand has bolstered my decision to join their ranks."


Photo above of Michael Burns, MSPAS graduate, with his fiancé and son.


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